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M-08: "Upper East Scabby" by New Affiliates
You must have seen him around. He’s often surrounded in many ways—by picketers, who brought him to grab your attention; by equipment that ensures he stays pumped; by the occasional tourist snapping his portrait; by indifferent passersby who’ve seen him before and have some place to be.
His name is Scabby, born in 1990, and he’s deliberately grotesque—with sharp teeth, protruding eyes, a pronounced snarl, and festering sores. He’s large: Big Sky, where you can order him, offers him in sizes ranging from six feet ($2,000) to twenty-five feet ($8,000). The most popular size is twelve feet, which “conveniently fits standing in the back of a pickup and gets attention without breaking New York’s ordinances dictating the height of inflatable displays.”
He’s become an alternative symbol for New York—a true icon whose effects register both aesthetic and social, exposing a certain absurdity in the conditions around him. And where better to code him into our memories than the Upper East Side? This souvenir will sit perfectly on your shelf with other NYC collectibles, right between the six-inch (figural) Statue of Liberty and the two-inch (ubiquitous) yellow taxi. Scabby is a roving symbol for a static culture where looking, and longing, are its primary currency.
In The Rich Boy, UES fanboy F. Scott Fitzgerald informs us: “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.” We fantasize about that difference. We love to try to glimpse it through windows and in lobbies. But we often forget that this image is a constructed one, produced by labor whose own image is often forgotten or ignored. We are reminded when confronted with the pink-lipped snarl of a giant inflatable rat.